URMSTON

1830

URMSTON

Urmston, a township in the parish of Flixton, hundred of Salford, 5 miles S.W. from Manchester. Inhabitants 645. Urmston Lodge is the seat of Miss C. Trafford. At this village was born, December 16th 1708, John Collier, the deservedly favourite "Tim Bobbin" of Lancashire, perhaps the most popular personage to whom the county has given birth. His father was curate of Urmston, and kept a school in which John was educated with a view to the church; but this plan proved abortive, by his father becoming blind, and he was apprentice in the fourteenth year of his age to a Dutch loom weaver, on Newton Moor, in the parish of Mottram, Cheshire. Disliking this mode of life, he persuaded his master, after two years service, to cancel his indentures. He now commenced itinerant school master, going about the country from one town to another, and, as he taught generally by night as well as by day, his time was assiduously occupied; this plan he pursued till he had nearly attained the age of twenty-one, when he was engaged as usher by Mr. Pearson, curate and schoolmaster at Milnrow, near Rochdale. This gentleman dying in a few years, Tim was nominated his successor to the Free School, with a salary of twenty pounds, and at this place he continued the whole of his life with the exception of a few months which he spent in the counting house of his friend Mr. Hill of Kebroyd in Yorkshire. At his leisure hours he amused himself by taking lessons in drawing, and in playing on the hautboy and flute : in the former instrument he excelled. He attempted some heads in profile with decent success, and, though this line did not hit his humour, he produced a few altar pieces for country churches, and was employed by inn keepers to paint their signs, but all these pieces have long since perished. Fortunately hitting upon caricature, which at that time was a novelty, and working his pieces with great celerity, he acquired a good deal of money, which, as it came readily, went merrily. The singularity and droll humour of his pieces, consisting chiefly of ugly, grinning, odd fellows, mumbling old women upon broomsticks, &c., attracted great attention, and they were speedily bought up. Several were sent by the Liverpool merchants to the West Indies, and turned out successful speculations. Amongst the other acquirements of Tim was the faculty of writing beautifully in any kind of style, particularly an imitation of printed characters of extraordinary minuteness, such as the Lord's Prayer contained in the size of a split pea, and the Apostles' Creed in that of a sixpence, both most distinct. In the year 1740 he published the Blackbird, the best specimen of his versification, in which however he did not excel, as it often sinks into mere doggrel; this piece contains some spirited ridicule upon a Lancashire justice, more renowned for political zeal than discretion. His other chief poem, entitled the Flying Dragon, was not published till twenty years later; it is a coarse but laughable satire, on the partiality for French fashions then prevalent; neither of these pieces would have survived their author, but for the fame of his celebrated work, published about the year 1748, a "View of the Lancashire Dialect, showing in that speech the comical adventures and misfortunes of a Lancashire clown:" by Tim Bobbin. The character of Tummas is probably an original of the author's creation, but it certainly bears a strong resemblance to that of Clod in Shadwell's "Lancashire Witches," as well in the dialect, as in the sort of scrapes into which both these personages fall; the natural and unforced drollery of this composition, however, has seldom been surpassed, and will confer a lasting reputation on the author. His fame is at present somewhat confined to the northern counties, as, in the southern, much of the zest of the work is lost, the perusal of the uncouth spelling being found difficult. An edition lately published with an interpretation, though sadly inferior in spirit, will tend to diffuse the fame of the writer. The dialogue was a work of labour, as Tim had been many years collecting, from the rustics in his own neighbourhood and elsewhere, all the awkward, vulgar, obsolete and local words and expressions, which occurred to him in conversations, and, these being wrought up in a very diverting manner, the work both from its novelty and merit became so immediately popular in the neighbourhood, that a second edition soon became necessary. Unprincipled publishers pirated the property, to counteract which he decorated a third edition with ludicrous and characteristic engravings. The last literary production of Mr. Collier was his "Remarks on the Rev. Mr. Whitaker's History of Manchester, in two parts," by Muscipula, published about 1770; it exhibits proofs of a very acute understanding, with no deficiency of learning, though it must be owned with an ample share of salt and seasoning. Mr. Collier married in the year 1744, and had the good fortune to meet with a very virtuous, discreet, and sensible helpmate, who proved a good wife and an excellent mother. Having an inexhaustible flow of spirits and humour, his company was much sought after, which led him too often to exceed the bounds of sobriety. He died in 1786, in the 78th year of his age, with his powers both bodily and mental but little impaired. He left three sons and two daughters, the former were all attached to the pallet, but in different branches of the mimetic art. An edition of the author's works was published at Rochdale in 1819. Some of the smaller pieces and letters are highly ludicrous and farcible, reminding the reader powerfully of the manner of Swift. Dr. Whitaker speaks of the Dialogue as "that truly original work the Lancashire Dialect, in which the author, my old acquaintance, besides the praise of having drawn a most faithful and diverting picture of rustic manners, whilst he supposed himself to be little more than transcribing the jargon of his own parish, was in reality perpetuating words and forms of speech which had subsisted before the conquest. His glossary proves that he sometimes had a glimpse of the fact, but his knowledge of the Saxon language was too confined to show him in its full extent what I am sure would have delighted him beyond measure, the merit and importance of his own achievement. O si sic omnia!" This critique of the learned historian of Whalley, in his zeal to prove that the language of the Lancashire clown often suggests the idea of a Saxon peasant, goes rather beyond the mark, as the dialect of "Tummas and Meary" is usually little more than the common forms of the English tongue, made obsecure and ludicrous by their uncouth pronunciation. The Anglo-Saxon language being much more pure and observable in the patois of the eastern counties, whose inhabitants had no communication with the remains of the ancient Britons. What the Doctor means by his pathetic Osi sic omnia! can be only guessed at. Tim to be sure was a staunch lover of liberty, perhaps what is now called a radical, and what is worse showed no sort of reverence for the cloth, as is apparent from the trimming which he bestowed upon the historian of Manchester, but which castigation, however severe, time now sanctions, as fully deserved by that most wrong - headed, positive and absurd antiquary. 

(3) The New Lancashire Gazetteer or Topographical Dictionary 1830